Greenhouse gas emissions form agriculture fell by 3.9% in 2019, according to provisional figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The decrease, totalling 0.86Mt CO2 equivalent, was driven by reduced fertiliser use, down 10%, and a reduction in the quantity of lime used on soils, down 25%.

Both fertiliser use and lime use had increased substantially in 2018 due to the prolonged drought during the summer, and a return to normal usage has led to the decrease.

However, the EPA warned that other key drivers of emissions in agriculture, such as the number of dairy cows (up 2.8%), continued to rise last year.

Agricultural emissions

Total agricultural emissions reported by the EPA in 2019 were 21.15Mt, down from 22.01Mt in 2018. This equated to 35% of all emissions reported by the EPA.

Taking 2019’s reduction into account, agricultural emissions have still increased by 8.7% since 2014, according to the EPA’s figures.

Alongside fertiliser application, ruminant digestion, manure management, agricultural soils and fuel use are the other main contributors to agricultural emissions.

Total emissions

Overall, the EPA reported a 4.5% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions, the largest decrease since 2011.

In addition to agriculture, energy industries and residential sectors also recorded significant reductions.

Despite the positive trend, the EPA said that Ireland will exceed its 2019 annual EU emissions allocation by 6.98Mt, making it highly unlikely that Ireland will meet its overall 2020 targets.

Stephen Treacy, senior manager of the EPA, said: “These 2019 figures illustrate where our economy and emissions were heading before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While 2020 is likely to see a reduction in emissions caused by the impact of the pandemic, this does not negate the need for long-term and sustained action.

"Focusing on climate action as part of a ‘green’ recovery offers the opportunity to respond to climate change while rebuilding our economy and generating new jobs.”


The reduction reflects the work that is ongoing at farm level to increase efficiency and reduce emissions, IFA environmental chair Paul O’Brien said.

“The reduced emission figures for agriculture clearly show that farmers are stepping up and are playing their part in climate action,” O’Brien said.

He urged for caution around attributing reductions in lime usage to emission reductions. In the long term liming is proven to reduce emission, specifically nitrous oxide.

The benefits of lime are recognised in the Programme for Government, O’Brien pointed out, with plans for a ‘national liming programme’ to improve nitrogen use and efficiency.

He said that Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) and the increased usage of protected urea were important changes adopted by farmers that were reducing emissions.

“The EPA report emphasises the importance of improving the data collection in agriculture, so an evidence-based approach can be taken to meet climate targets that accurately reflects the actual emissions and sequestration in the sector.”

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